Authors: Lisa Aldin
Tags: #One of the Guys
“Right!” I say, sounding way more excited than I should. “Anyway. He dated this girl, She-Who-ShallNot-Be-Named, for two years. He was madly in love with her. It was sickening.” My stomach turns just thinking about it. “She cheated on him. A lot. He hated her for it so he ended it.”
Emma frowns. “I didn't cheat on Kevinâ¦”
I hold up a finger. “I'm getting to my point, I swear. A few weeks later, She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named began dating this guy who wore too much leather and talked with a lisp. Now how do you think Loch felt about that?”
Emma pulls a pink tissue from her bag. “Pissed.”
Loch should've been pissed. God, I get so mad just thinking about that girl and what she did to my loyal Loch. Well, not
Loch. He doesn't belong to me or anything. Still. I want to punch She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named in the face.
“Worse,” I say. “He was sad. It's like he completely forgot what a bitch she was. Like his memory was wiped clean. He forgot how much she hurt him, how she cheated. Seeing her with someone elseâanyone elseâstirred old feelings up again, and logic was thrown out the window. He wanted her back. We had to talk some serious sense into him.”
Emma wipes her nose with the tissue. “So I need to make Kevin forget that he doesn't want to be with me? How do I do that? I don't want to date someone else.”
I chew on my bottom lip. Maybe I should end the conversation before I do any permanent damage. But I want to help. She shouldn't be jerked around by some guy.
“You don't have to,” I say after a moment. “You just need to make Kevin
that you are.”
Truth is, I'm not one for mind games, but I don't know what else to say. It could work.
Emma shoves the dirty tissue into the front pocket of her pink-plaid book bag. “That's impossible.”
“Pretending is easy. I do it here every day.” I don't intend to be so revealing, but I can't shove the words back into my mouth. Emma looks at me, kindness behind her blue eyes. I feel bad that I haven't made more of an effort to get to know her until now. Maybe I'll change that.
“You're doing better than I did my first year,” she says. “I was a wreck.”
I look at her perfect manicure and perfect hair and perfect skin. Despite the fact she's just had a major cryfest, I still wouldn't describe her as a “wreck.”
“Do you feel better about Kevin now?” I ask, changing the subject. “Your problem is fixable.”
Just when I think I've done something good here, Emma starts crying again.
Advice. I suck at it
“I'm sorry!” I stand. “I shouldn't have said anything. I don't know what I'm talking about. I've never had a boyfriend.”
Why do my confessions keep spilling out around this girl?
“It's not that. It's just that I don't have anyone to pretend with.” She wipes a gloop of mascara from the corner of her eye.
“Use a guy friend,” I suggest, breathing a little easier. “Bribe him with, I don't know, food or something.”
Emma crosses her ankles. “I never meet any boys. Kevin's an exception.”
I pick at my thumbnail and lean against the banister, thinking. I should run before she starts bawling again. I look at her wide, bright eyes brimming with tears.
“I guess you'll just have to borrow one of my friends then,” I say. It's a promise that I'm not sure that I can keep.
Emma sniffles, and I think she's going to start wailing again. Instead, she squeals so loud that the windows might shatter. She hugs me and skips down the stone steps in gleeful little spurts.
“THANK YOU, TONYA VALENTINE!” she shrieks. “YOU ARE MY NEW BEST FRIEND!”
I smile, blushing, and sling my book bag over my shoulder. For the first time at Winston, I feel like I might make a friend. “My mother would be so happy to hear you say that. And, hey, call me Toni.”
cleaning my room while dressed like a black cat. Well, sort of dressed like one. The only indication that she intended to be a feline for Halloween lies in the set of black furry ears on top of her head. The remaining parts of her cat costume consist of a strapless black dress, fishnet stockings, and black knee-high boots.
Tom Brady lies in the middle of my bed, watching her with disdain. I think he's insulted. He would never wear knee-high boots.
After Emma dumps the army of Mountain Dew cans lining my desk into a trash bag, she kicks my dirty clothes with her heels until my various sweatshirts rest in a neat pile in the corner. The embarrassingly girlie pale pink carpet shows underneath. Emma arrived five minutes ago, but she's made more progress than I would in a week.
“I'm sorry,” she says, out of breath. Her cat ears are crooked. “I hope you don't mind. I love organizing things.”
“No problem,” I reply. “We've all got our thing.”
Emma's influence on my room is another reason for my mother to love her. Mom nearly fainted from happiness when I asked if Emma (a real live GIRL!) could come over before we headed off to Ollie's Halloween party.
“Time to put on my costume,” I announce, heading to the bathroom.
When Ollie sent the text inviting me to the party at his house, I thought it was a joke. Ollie's never thrown a party before. None of us had, unless I count the brief hangouts before monster-hunting expeditions. Which I don't.
At least the four of us will be in the same place at the same time again.
what matters right now.
The party's also the perfect setting for Emma to win her boyfriend back. I chose Loch as her fake date because he's the most reliable. We haven't seen much of each other over the last few weeksâhe's been so busy with workâso I'm looking forward to seeing him tonight.
I inspect my costume in the bathroom mirror, pleased with my choice this year. There's no way the guys can beat this. It's simple. It's classic. It's comfortable. It's stereotypical Vermont. I skip down the hall and burst into my bedroom with a giant, “MOOOOOO!”
Emma stares at me, a tube of lip gloss in her right hand, a compact mirror in the other. She snaps the mirror shut, tucks it away, and crosses the room. The heels of her boots leave marks in the carpet like footprints in snow.
“Is that really your costume?” she asks.
As I spin around, presenting my outfit, the rusty bell around my neck produces a hollow clank. “Isn't it awesome?”
“You're a cow.”
“Oh, good. I was worried you wouldn't be able to tell.” I adjust the pink plastic udders on my stomach. The black-and-white-spotted jumpsuit hangs loose, but I don't mind. The hat, complete with pink fuzzy ears and a pair of horns, fits perfectly, but the best part is I can wear sneakers. I'll be comfortable all night.
“I can't see your
,” Emma says, tilting her head. “You might as well be wearing a garbage bag.”
A garbage bag
. Could be a good costume for next year.
“There will be boys at this party.” She fiddles with her silver stud earrings. “Cute boys. Right?”
“If people show up. Ollie isn't exactly Mr. Popular.” Ollie flies under the radar at Burlington High. We all did. So I have a hard time picturing him as a Party God. Plus he's not a crowd person. He once told me he likes the alone time he gets on his snowboard, how he can't hear anyone telling him what to do. The fact that he's throwing this party still feels weird.
“Don't you want to show off your assets?” Emma asks.
I study my body. “I didn't know I had any.”
“Blasphemy! You've got a banging body, Toni! I'm sorry, but I can't in good conscience let you hide those legs!” She advances toward me.
I take a step back. “Umâ¦this isn't where we cue to the Movie Makeover montage, is it?”
An hour later, my cow costume's mutilated. Poor cow. It happened so quickly. Scissors and fabric flew through the air. Makeup brushes dusted my cheeks. Lip gloss sparkled under the bedroom light. I stare at the remnants of the black-and-white jumpsuit lying dead on the carpet, feeling naked.
“You're still a cow,” Emma says, slipping on a pair of purple high heels. She doesn't go anywhere without at least two outfits. “You're just a cute cow now. Ha. That rhymed.”
The knee-high boots I borrowed from Emma pinch my toes, dig into my heels, and make me dizzy. I'm not a tall girl, and I don't want to be. It's not natural for me to see the world from way up here. The fishnet stockings itch my thighs, and the lip gloss tastes like fruity chemicals. My boobs spill out of the black tank top (an old piece of my wardrobe from junior high that Emma found in my closet), and Emma's black mini-skirt is at least two sizes too small.
I'm exposed. At least she let me keep the cow bell around my neck.
“Your crush will faint when he sees you tonight,” Emma says, studying me like I'm her masterpiece. She finishes cutting up the hat and ties the ears in my hair like a headband.
I adjust the underwear riding up my butt. “My what?”
“You don't have to tell me who he is.” Emma powders my nose. “We don't know each other well enough to be trading secrets yet.”
“I don't have a crush.” I pull up the tank top. Immediately, Emma yanks it back down. I have some serious cleavage. Did my boobs grow two sizes in an hour? Emma must be some kind of boob magician.
“Seriously?” She tilts her head. “Not even a little one?”
“It's possible to go through life without being love-crazy,” I say. I'm proof of that. I've survived this far.
Emma's eyes widen. “Yeah, but what a sad way to go through it.”
I'm not lying. I don't have a crush at the moment, but I've had my share of them before. Those boys blend together in my mind, a merry-go-round of passing faces, and I barely remember some of their names. I pretend not to remember the boys who quickened my pulse, drove heat to my cheeks, and invaded my dreams because not one of them returned my feelings. I'd prefer not to recall the sting of rejection from the boys who preferred the girls in high heels, the girls who used hair products, the girls who sat on the sidelines during impromptu basketball games before gym class.
Boyfriends could wait until college.
“You don't know how lucky you are to know so many guys,” Emma says. “I met Kevin by accident. He came to my house, passing out fliers for his lawn-mowing business. It was fate.”
I picture an unsuspecting boy ringing a doorbell and the next thing he knows Emma Elizabeth Swanson is wrapping her legs around his waist, planting kisses all over his face, desperate to cling to a male.
Emma rips another piece of fabric from the dead cow costume and ties it around my thigh. “Umâ¦ what is that?” I ask.
“It's sexy. It's like a garter,” she says. “The boys will stare at it all night.”
“What's a garter?”
Emma laughs. She thinks I'm joking. She smooths the top of my hair, which is pinned into a high sophisticated bun. “You have amazing shoulders,” she says. “Thin. Pretty. Classic. You should wear your hair up like this more often.”
My cheeks redden. I wear it back often, but in a low messy ponytail. Just something to keep it out of my face. Nothing like what Emma's done. “Let's go over the plan again,” I say.
Emma plops down on the bed and crosses her legs, ready to listen.
“You sure Kevin's coming?” I ask.
She nods. “I invited him. He accepted. He goes to a Catholic school in Shelburne so I think he's eager to mingle with the public school crowd. Truth be told, so am I.”
“Perfect.” I try to pace as I speak, but I stumble in the unfamiliar heels. I steady myself. “So Kevin shows up. When he does, you dance with Loch. Flirt. Talk. Whatever. Make sure Kevin sees you do this. I'll chat casually with Kevin about what a great couple you and Loch make. Blah. Blah. Blah. I can make up some juicy, but classy, stuff. After which Kevin will become steaming jealous and beg for your forgiveness.”